Good for sensitive skin
High quality ingredients
Not as drying as other products
Has anti-aging peptides
Takes a while to see results
First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate
We purchased First Aid Beauty's FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
If there is one skincare ingredient experts recommend time and time again, it’s retinol. But with great power can come irritation, which is where the FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum from First Aid Beauty steps in. For those who want to try retinol but avoid the dry, flaky skin that comes with it, this product was designed for you.
Retinol is recommended so often because of how effective it is at resurfacing the skin to improve skin texture and discoloration, as well as supporting collagen production and ultimately diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It works for nearly everything—acne, anti-aging, and general skin health. But to get to that point, skin often gets worse before it gets better, turning red and irritated as it gets accustomed to retinol.
The FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum helps you avoid this “retinolization” by formulating with a lower level of retinol, and by adding hydrating ingredients. But does it work as it should? I tested the FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum to see if it could be both gentle and effective.
Best for: Normal skin
Potential Allergens: None
Active Ingredients: Retinol, peptides
Byrdie Clean?: Yes
About the Brand: First Aid Beauty creates clinically-proven skincare products that work for even sensitive skin. The brand uses clean ingredients and commits to being 100% cruelty-free.
About My Skin: Healing acne and delaying aging
The biggest issue I have with my skin is preventing breakouts and healing the dark spots and discoloration that past acne has caused. Plus, as I approach 30, I know I have to nurture my skin to keep it healthy as it ages.
I keep a light but active set of products—a simple Cerave face wash, Biologique Recherche P50 and PIGM 400 for most nights and mornings respectively, a vitamin C serum from Good Skin Days, and First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream (I’m already a fan of the brand). I’ve used retinol in the past (most recently Differin, which uses another type of retinoid), so I know my skin can handle it if I apply with a light hand. I fit the FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum into my routine just before moisturizing at night, as suggested.
Retinol newbies will want to follow the instructions—start slow by using three times per week, increase to every other night if your skin reacts well, and then once your skin is used to the product you can apply it every night. Because I didn’t have any reactions after the first night and I’ve used retinol before, I jumped right into every-other-night use. And to make sure I avoided any dryness, I used Topicals Like Butter, which is a heavier moisturizer than I’d typically use.
The Feel: An emollient lotion
The FAB Skin Lab Beauty Retinol Serum isn’t so much serum, instead, it feels more like a light, emollient lotion. It has a scent, but it’s very subtle and doesn’t smell overbearing or like perfume (there’s actually no added fragrance).
It spreads easily and sinks into the skin quickly, and my skin is ready for moisturizer almost immediately. I like to give it a moment alone on my skin before putting on something hydrating.
Because of the way retinol makes skin sensitive, you should only apply at night, and so you don’t need to worry about how it lays under makeup.
Ingredients: Understanding retinol
It’s important to understand that retinol is just one type of its kind that falls under the group retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives. While they vary in strength and composition, they all act similarly as an anti-aging and anti-acne product (although some work better for one or the other).
Retinol can be less harsh than other retinoids, like prescription-strength Retin-a, but in turn, it takes longer to actually see results. But the tradeoff means you’re less likely to deal with the negative effects of retinoids, like red, drying, and itchy skin. For an in-depth look at retinol, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
This FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum uses a 0.25% formulation of retinol. It may sound super tiny, but it can still be effective at the percentage and is perfect for those who are new to retinol. The serum also uses peptides and a “Skin Savior Complex” for extra hydration, which is a formula of hyaluronic acid, vitamins C and E, ceramides, aloe, allantoin, and colloidal oatmeal.
And if you’re pregnant, avoid retinol! Try bakuchiol instead.
The Results: They take a while
The magic of retinol doesn’t happen all at once—you have to give it time. It can take months to notice a difference, even though it can start working deep within skin layers right away.
Over time, you should notice a more even skin tone, decreased fine lines, and an overall brighter complexion.
In the meantime though, I’m happy with the way the FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum makes my skin look and feel. Throughout its use, my skin has felt smooth and I’ve had no new breakouts. My skin has been behaving lately so I’m not sure if it’s the result of this product or just luck, but either way, it’s reacted well with my skin which makes me more likely to continue to use it.
I did notice some dryness creeping up, but between moderating my usage of the retinol and applying moisturizer, my skin has stayed at that goldilocks level of not too oily, and not too dry.
The Value: Pricey but worth it
The one-ounce bottle sells for $58, which is definitely pricey but still around the same cost as other high-end retinol products. Even drugstore products, like the Rapid Wrinkle Repair cream from Neutrogena, sell for upwards of $30. (Depending on your insurance, you might be able to get a retinol cream from a dermatologist for less, but it may be too strong for sensitive types.) You don’t have to use much at a time, so even though the bottle is small, I see it lasting several months.
Similar Products: Varying prices and strengths
The INKEY List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum ($10): It is possible to find a retinol product with a tiny price tag. This affordable retinol serum is just under $10 and utilizes slow-release retinol and retinoid to decrease irritation. It also includes squalane, an ultra-hydrating ingredient.
SUNDAY RILEY A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum ($85): If you’re looking for something stronger, this high-end retinol serum has a similar feel to First Aid Beauty’s but comes with a high percentage of retinol. It also includes CoQ10 to improve UV-damaged skin and Hawaiian White Honey for a healthy skin boost.
If you want to try retinol—or if you have in the past and it left your skin red and dry—First Aid Beauty's FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate is a good choice. It’s strong yet effective and is formulated with skin-loving ingredients to keep your face nurtured while retinol gets to work on imperfections.
- Product Name FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate
- Product Brand First Aid Beauty
- SKU 815517020225
- Price $58
- Weight 1 oz.
- Ingredients Water/Aqua/Eau, Polysorbate 80, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Butylene Glycol, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Ret-Inol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Colloidal Oatmeal, Tocopherol, Hydro-Lyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramide Np, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Linoleic Acid, Al-Lantoin, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Palmitic Acid, Oleic Acid, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Triolein, Caprylyl Glycol,Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum, Lecithin, Stearic Acid, Maltodextrin, BHT, BHA, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Sorbate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate.